Jon Tester was born in Havre, Montana on August 21, 1956, and raised near the town of Big Sandy, Montana, (population: 710) on the same family land that his grandfather homesteaded in 1916.
Tester grew up in Chouteau County, where the rich landscape and life as a farmer’s son instilled in him a deep-rooted conviction to Montana, family, faith and hard work.
Today Jon Tester continues to honor the agricultural roots his grandfather planted in Big Sky Country by continuing the Tester family dry-land farming operations. Tester also was a custom butcher operator.
A respected member in the community, Tester served for five years as chairman of the Big Sandy School Board of Trustees, is a past master of Treasure Lodge #95 of the Masons in Big Sandy, and served on the Big Sandy Soil Conservation Service (SCS) Committee and the Chouteau County Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS) Committee.
Tester is a former music teacher in the Big Sandy School District and holds a bachelor’s of science degree in music from the University of Great Falls.
Since the late 1980s Tester has put his stamp of leadership on the family farm by moving toward organic farming. The Tester family now grows organic wheat, barley, lentils, peas, millet, buckwheat, alfalfa and hay.
Senator Tester recently completed his fourth regular session in the Montana State Senate. After election as the minority whip for the 2001 session, and minority leader for the 2003 session, Tester was selected in 2005 by his colleagues to lead as President of the Montana Senate, serving as the chief presiding officer of the Montana Legislature’s upper chamber.
His tenure as President marked a significant and successful transition for Montana Democrats as they moved into the majority leadership of the Senate for the first time in more than a decade.
Tester’s wife of 28 years, Sharla, also grew up in north-central Montana and comes from an agricultural family. Jon and Sharla have a daughter, Christine (son-in-law James), a son Shon, and one grandchild, Kilikina.
“I’m all for strengthening rules, but it’s even more important to change the culture of corruption. We need to let Washington know now that the ‘For Sale’ sign has to come down, and Conrad Burns’ days of ‘pay-to-play’ are ending.”
“Affordable, reliable energy should be expected in Montana, and we need to make sure Montana’s residents get affordable energy first. Affordable energy should be one critical advantage to living in our resource-rich state.”
“The healthcare crisis that Montana and the United States faces today is the most pressing issue upon us. People can’t afford to get sick.”
“Affordable, accessible, quality healthcare is critical if our economy is to flourish. We can’t forget health care problems such as the high costs of prescription drugs. Montana’s seniors, disabled and our most vulnerable citizens should never have to make the decision between buying food to eat or prescription drugs.”
Privatization takes security away from Montanans. Read more about Jon’s views of Social Security here.
“I respect tribal sovereignty and believe that government-to-government relationships are a priority in working with Indian Country.”
“As a dryland farmer, a Montanan, and someone committed to giving a voice to all of our citizens in this state, I join my friends in Indian Country in my desire to protect our lands, air and water. I want to ensure self-determination and more opportunities for Tribal citizens through better education, housing, health care, economic development and trust reform.”
“Our first priority should be to secure our borders and our ports. It’s what the 9/11 commission recommended, and plain common sense. We cannot deal with immigration as a nation without taking this first step. People who want to immigrate to the United States should follow the rules toward citizenship–no cuts in line. Becoming a citizen must continue to be a respectful, deliberate, and meaningful process.”
“Public education is the backbone of our democracy–an uneducated society impedes the ability of a democracy to work for the people.”
“For a successful business, you have to be able to hire well-trained workers that meet the needs of your business. It’s why our Colleges of Technology, K-12 public education and our state university system are essential to educating tomorrow’s workforce for economic growth in the Big Sky.”
Iraq: “I support the war in Afghanistan, I support the War on Terror, and I fully support our troops in Iraq and everywhere they serve. However, President Bush was too quick to declare victory in Iraq, and he was unprepared for the insurgency that followed. It is time for the President to articulate a clear exit strategy for American troops from Iraq. An open-ended occupation is not in the best interests of the United States, the Iraqi people, or the Middle East. The time has come to support our troops by laying out a plan to bring them home.”
“Clean air and water are two of Montana’s most treasured resources. We need to make sure these important resources are not only maintained, but improved. Our dream is for our children’s grandchildren to be able to wake each day to the beautiful place we call home–the great state of Montana.”
“Hunting and fishing are an important part of the quality of life we enjoy in Montana. We should never let just a few have access to our public lands, rivers and streams. Rather, we can find ways to respect private land owners’ property rights while allowing for all Montanans to celebrate in the beauty of Montana’s outdoors.”